Businesses looking to deploy Windows 11 through PC refreshes rather than upgrades of existing devices may find that a difficult goal to achieve, at least in the short term, solution providers and industry analysts told CRN US.
Windows 11 heads into general availability on October 5, both on new PCs and as a free upgrade for compatible Windows 10 devices. But the operating system will debut at a time of industry-wide component shortages and supply chain disruption, as well as pre-existing strong demand for PCs.
Depending on the age of a PC fleet, upgrading to Windows 11 may not be an option for all businesses. The operating system will be supported by fewer existing PCs because of Microsoft’s strict processor requirements for running Windows 11.
Along with the much-discussed requirement for a TPM 2.0 security chip, Windows 11 also requires a CPU released in the past four years.
The CPU requirement is widely believed to be a security measure, as well. That’s because hardware protections against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities have been included in new Intel and AMD processors since late 2018. (Microsoft did not make an executive available for an interview.)
Taking everything together, there’s good reason to expect that Windows 11 may not see a speedy rollout – even for partners and customers that are inclined toward moving quickly on it.
Customers clamouring to get onto Windows 11 may need to be advised to have patience – and confusion among customers about the situation is also likely.
J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said he won’t be surprised if there is a more-gradual rollout of Windows 11 than there might have been otherwise.
“Supply chains are still a mess. We have the chip shortage that doesn’t seem to be fixed until next year,” Gownder said. “Those new Intel foundries aren’t going to be around very quickly.”
Clearly, Windows 11 is launching into a PC market that’s been dramatically altered from when Microsoft came out with Windows 10 in 2015, analysts told CRN US.
When Windows 10 debuted, the PC market was sluggish and “one of the underlying goals was to drive refresh,” said Tom Mainelli, group vice president for device and consumer research at IDC.
That all changed with the pandemic driving soaring demand for PCs and the upheaval in component availability and supply chains, Mainelli said.
Compared to the Windows 10 launch, Microsoft rolling out Windows 11 in a supply-constrained environment “makes for a very different story,” he said.
“There shouldn’t be any expectation that this new OS is going to significantly drive increased volumes this year. Because the industry can’t make more PCs,” Mainelli said. “They’re making as many as they can.”
In this environment, it’s fair to assume that people who want to buy a new PC to get Windows 11 “may have a harder time finding a PC,” Mainelli said.
Many solution providers are viewing the higher bar for security as the top benefit of Windows 11 overall. While the security-focused measures could contribute to a slower rollout of Windows 11, the solution providers who spoke to CRN agreed that this is a worthwhile trade-off.
Using Windows 11’s security features in combination on test devices has reduced malware by 60 percent, Microsoft said in a June blog post.
Among the other big advantages for partners is that Windows 11 will shift to once-a-year feature updates, as opposed to the twice-a-year cadence with Windows 10.